THE continuation of unseasonal ground which would more typically be expected throughout the months of April and May has been one of the most dominant themes of the current pre-Christmas campaign.

No fewer than 22 of this season’s 26 fixtures have been run on ground which featured either good or yielding in the going description and to a large extent it has been due to the month of November proving to be one of the driest on record with rainfall readings totaling amounts more common with summer months.

Dry spell

The frustration caused by the timing of such a dry spell will not be lost on owners and handlers. Having lost January through to March earlier in the year due to Covid, it was followed by a dry April which saw many winter ground horses roughed off in the anticipation of more suitable conditions following in the autumn.

The failure of that to arrive has certainly backed up a number of horses that are waiting for soft ground, evident not only in the number of entries this weekend, but also in the entry to runner rate this term.

This season’s current average comes in at 51%, some way adrift of the 65% average from 10 years ago. This season alone, the Castletown-Geoghegan fixture at the beginning of October is the only meeting to have surpassed that average of 10 years ago when there were 68 runners from the total entry of 92.

More and more handlers are finding themselves having to cover all options across a weekend, particularly in four-year-old races, and with last weekend’s racing producing only 148 runners from 352 entries, the rollover has certainly boosted this weekend’s entries.

Large entry

The start time for today’s racing at Ballindenisk, and the cards at Corbeagh House and Lingstown tomorrow have all been brought forward to 11.30am due to this large entry that was received. In particular the 173 entries for Ballindenisk is the largest entry at that particular venue since May 2011, with Corbeagh House receiving it’s largest ever entry.

While this does represent a rising cost for those owners and handlers who are electing to enter their horse at multiple venues, hunt committees have been the chief benefactor, with the average entry for the season thus far standing at an encouraging 100.

New sires producing points winners

THE particularly impressive winning debut of Found A Fifty at Boulta on Sunday was not only just a second four-year-old maiden winner for handler Mark Fahey, but it was also a first for the bay gelding’s sire Solskjaer with his first runner in the pointing fields here.

Changing stallions

The former Royal Whip Stakes winner is one of no fewer than 30 individual stallions that have already sired a four-year-old maiden winner this season, as more and more new names enter the equation as part of the changing face of the stallion ranks.

Maxios and Waldpark are other names thrown into the mix as having also sired their first winners in the sphere in recent weeks with a four-year-old maiden victor. Chasing Fire proved to be a first pointing winner for the aforementioned Castlehyde Stud resident when winning at Tattersalls. For the Haras d’Annebault-based former German Derby winner Waldpark, his opening victory in the pointing fields came courtesy of Bold Reaction at Moira, who was also his first runner in the sphere when falling at Cork in the spring.

Only nine stallions have saddled more than one winner in the age division with Shirocco and Walk In The Park claiming top billing as it stands, having each produced four winners in the four-year-old maiden category.

The arrival of the 2022 crop of four-year-olds in February is sure to continue that theme.

Jack the latest of Andrews family to compete in Irish points

MOIG South played host to two national champions last Sunday, as the 11-time Irish champion Derek O’Connor took to the track alongside the one-time British champion Jack Andrews for what was his first competitive appearance in the Irish pointing fields.

The 23-year-old teamed up with Sam Curling’s Marelly in division one of the four-year-old maiden to finish fifth in a connection that was made via the Sageburg geldings’ part -owner Richard Downes.

It was in his colours that Andrews’ record-breaking sister Gina won a Killarney bumper back in 2017 aboard the subsequent Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Summerville Boy, and Downes has gone on to have horses in training with Andrews and her husband Tom Ellis.

Sunday was not the first time that the Andrews name has appeared on a rider’s board at an Irish point-to-point fixture. His sisters Gina and Bridget have both featured on the British teams as part of the Anglo-Irish Challenge – Gina riding at Tattersalls in 2013, Fairyhouse a year later and in Inch in 2016, and Bridget, now a Cheltenham Festival-winning professional jockey, also rode at Fairyhouse in 2014.

Jack Andrews may not have been able to emulate the victory in Tattersalls of Gina in 2013, however his Moig South visit could still have notable significance for him as it may well prove to be one of if not his final ride in a point-to-point, as he is set to follow in his sister Bridget’s footsteps and join the professional ranks.